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The Research Group on the Global Future's e-mail newsletter

07.06.1999 · Research Group on the Global Future

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Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP)
Munich, Germany

"Thank god I read your newsletter before my interview."
- Newly hired trend researcher at a major European bank

(1) Decision Makers 2010
(2) Noted in Passing



The Concept

The pace of change is accelerating.

New technologies are emerging which will shape the ways
and means of society, business and politics. Current
leaders are often too caught up in the daily rush of
events to consider their longer-term consequences, yet
their decisions leave long-lasting legacies. Rising
leaders, too, must often pay more attention to the next
step than to the end goal. As a result, critical gaps
can develop between the needs of the present and the
needs of the future.

Decision Makers 2010 helped to bridge this gap.

The Method

The conference brought together members of a rising
generation of leaders - twenty-eight selected persons
from twelve countries on three continents - in order
to define priorities and options for shaping the future
of our societies. The Research Group on the Global Future,
which organized the conference in Frankfurt am Main,
Germany in cooperation with the Aventis Foundation,
decided to address interlocking problems by confronting
experts in a wide variety of fields with broad questions
about the global future.

In addition to presentations in their areas of expertise,
technologists contributed views on social questions,
social scientists addressed the impact of technology,
business leaders added to the discussion on values, and
government members spoke on how to resolve these
questions. Their answers, and the dialogue that followed,
provide a guide to the key items on today's global agenda.
In the follow-up to the conference, first participants
and later other people associated with the project "How
We Want to Live Tomorrow" will develop these agenda
points into recommendations and action plans.

Key Questions

Decision Makers 2010 looked first at the changes that
technology is bringing to developed societies around the
world. Then it addressed societal changes that are not
directly related to technology. The conference brought
these two threads together in a final round on measures
we should take now to reach a desirable future.

Shaping Future Societies: The Digital and Biotech

* What parts of life will be changed most by the new
* What social problems or conflicts will advancing
technologies provoke?
* What can a technologically transformed society offer as

Beyond Technology: The Shape of Globalized Societies

* What are the key rules of the game in future societies,
and which actors shape them?
* Who are the likely winners and losers, and why?
* What element of social change (e.g. globalization,
individualization, regionalization) is likely to be most

Priorities for Tomorrow: How Do We Start Building
the Future Today?

* What decisions and concrete measures do we need to take
now in order to reach the future that we desire?
* How can we organize social and generational contracts
in a transformed society?

Presentation Excerpts

Dr. Gregory Stock, Director of the Program on Medicine,
Technology, and Society at the University of California,
Los Angeles opened the conference with strong words: "We
are living in a time of unprecedented change ... the
technologies we are developing today are ready to tear us
from history." Life grows complexity, but through a
series of bursts, and we are on the verge of a change
comparable with the development of multicellular
organisms. That change is the fusion of technology with
life, the effective creation of a global superorganism.

This change has consequences, and the two most important
are conscious reshaping of the earth's biosphere and
turning technology back on ourselves, transforming what
we mean by human. The development of genetic technology
is completely embedded in mainstream medical research
(e.g., curing disease, fertility research, animal
research, and the human genome project), and attempting
to stop be both impossible and immoral. The biggest
divide that genetic technology will likely produce is
generational: we may be terribly uncomfortable with these
things, but our children probably won't be.

By controlling its evolution, humanity is about to leave
its childhood.

Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak of the Institute of
Future Studies for Development in Bangkok, Thailand,
gave an Asian perspective on non-technological forces of
transformation. "The picture of industrialised society as
it will be in the next 10 years I would like to paint, is
a set of complex, overlapping and related observations of
the future. There will be five critical, non-technological
forces which will shape industrialized societies over the
next 10 years:

1. Demography
2. Natural resources and the environment
3. Values
4. World order
5. Global interaction."

Society in 2010 will comprise both tension and
co-operation at all levels, internationally, nationally
as well as socially. Changes will take place gradually,
step by step. Some of the potential tensions would need
considerable adjustments and people will need to be more
adaptable as the speed of change increases. And it will
be a very challenging society to live in.

Privacy Emerges As Key Theme

Privacy ranks high on lists around the world of people's
concerns about the future. Protection of personal data
may soon join bananas and biotechnology as a point of
friction in relations between Europe and the United
States. Members of the EU are facing problems harmonizing
their approaches to public information and personal

The experts at Decision Makers 2010 agreed that our
present conception of privacy is likely to erode
considerably in the near future and that individuals as
well as societies need to develop strategies for coping
with this development.

David Brin, author of The Transparent Society: Will
Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and
Freedom, said that the real choice, especially in public
institutions, was between secrecy and accountability.
Where secrecy prevails, accountability will suffer.
Society must ensure that when privacy disappears, ordinary
citizens can keep an eye on elites and not just vice versa.

Dr. Gunn added that programmers could build a certain
amount of privacy protection into the information
infrastructure. It was up to the public to demand this
protection. We must learn a new balance among the rights
of individuals, the needs of society, and the desires of

Mr. Yoshimasa Hayashi, a member of the Japanese
parliament's upper house, stressed the mismatch between
the needs of people and the output of government. He saw
an increasing need for government to reach down to smaller
scales to build acceptance.

More About the Conference

Find complete information about Decision Makers 2010 here.

Highlights include:

* Conclusions and agenda for the future

* Artists' contributions

* Dr. Moira Gunn's complete presentation on RealAudio

* Rabbi Walter Homolka's controversial views on the role of
nongovernmental organizations in the international system

* Recommended reading from and for decision makers

* Differences in Asian, North American, and European views
of the future

* What future threats worry the US government.



Real Fast

RealNetworks, a streaming media firm whose products
the Research Group on the Global Future likes and uses,
announced the one millionth download of the beta release
of RealJukebox just ten days after its initial release.
The company said their program reached the one million
level faster than any new software product in history.

Note, too, that this is a beta release and not the final
product. With companies using beta releases as marketing
channels, aspiring digerati will have to wrangle copies
of coveted pre-beta versions.

RealJukebox is available for free download from


Post-Industrial Education

The assembly-line process of educating masses of students
in cookie-cutter classes is under assault in the digital
age from entrepreneurs, educators, and philanthropists

Harcourt, a Massachusetts-based textbook company, has
plans to establish a university online. The Harcourt
University Project, which has been in development for the
past 15 months, will offer 120 online courses starting in
the fall of 2000. Some professorsare concerned that
quality of education online cannot approach the quality
of an in-person educational experience. James E. Perley
wondered if Harcourt will require instructors to use
Harcourt text. "It shouldn't be in the hands of the
institution to choose the best materials."

SOURCE: CyberTimes, AUTHOR: Pamela Mendels

Architects and educators say they have created in Maywood
Elementary School (Hammond, IN), a prototype of what a new
millennium school ought to be. The building incorporates a
variety of education concepts and trends to prepare 540
pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students for today's
fast-paced, high-tech society, says Bob Flach, assistant
superintendent of business for Hammond's public schools.

High-tech designs include schools desks that accommodate a textbook, notebook and computer, and detachable desk
drawers for student to move around the room without moving furniture. The builders have installed collapsible walls to enable teachers to team up for interdisciplinary
studies and cable lines connect cameras for surveillance
to keep the building secure and allow students to view
faraway programs and speakers. The educational approach
is also innovative. A team approach to teaching will be
used and kids will often have lessons with more than one
teacher at a time.

SOURCE: USA Today, AUTHOR: Tamara Henry

The Internet speaks English

A study by the OECD reports that 78% of all websites in
the world are written in English, a number that jumps
to 91% when sites on secure servers are included. In
the .com domain, a full 98% of sites on secure servers are
in English. Analysts note that although English is the
language of electronic commerce, the target audience is
people who have learned English as a foreign language,
not the smaller group of native speakers.

SOURCE: The Economist, May 15, 1999.

On the Other Hand

UNICEF reports that in 1999, for every person with
internet access, five others in the world cannot read.
The organization's State of the World's Children 1999
report adds that 130 million (equal to 80% of the current
number of people on the net) children of primary school
age are growing up without access to basic education.




global_futures also offers an interactive forum. Recommendations,letters, and tips are welcomed by the editors, particularly on the topics of the digital future, biotechnology, sustainability and the new economy. Send all feedback to fgz@lrz.uni-muenchen.de.



Douglas Merrill, Patrick Meyer, Juergen Turek, Markus Vorbeck
Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research
Geschwister Scholl Institute
Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich